The festive period is a time for families to come together.

However, child contact arrangements over Christmas can be difficult to navigate for parents who have separated, particularly in reaching an agreement as to who spends time with the children and when.

Where possible, children should have a meaningful relationship with both parents, especially during the festive period.

It would be helpful and beneficial for your children if parents could agree on Christmas plans.

If you are separated, you may wish to begin considering child contact arrangements now for the upcoming Christmas period.

Top Tips – Christmas Arrangements

If you are struggling to reach an agreement, we recommend the following tips:

  • Discuss Christmas arrangements as soon as possible;
  • Be prepared to compromise;
  • Be flexible and be mindful that usual arrangements may need to be varied over the festive period; 
  • Listen to the other parent's wishes and feelings as well as the children's wishes and feelings if they are old enough; 
  • Be respectful to the other parent; 
  • Do not allow the children to become involved in any parental conflict;
  • Provide the other parent with reasonable notice of any Christmas plans or issues; 
  • Always ensure that any arrangements made are in the best interests of the children. 

Christmas contact arrangement suggestions

There is no standard child contact arrangement; what works for some families may not work for others.

Consider if any of the following options would work with the other parent and your children: 

  • The child is to spend time with one parent from 4pm Christmas Eve to 4pm Christmas Day and with the other parent from 4pm Christmas Day to 4pm Boxing Day; 
  • Alternating arrangements, for example, the child to spend time with one parent on Christmas Day 2023 and with the other parent on Christmas Day 2024;
  • Christmas Day is to be spent with one parent, and Boxing Day with the other; 
  • Spending Christmas day in the same house where both parents are on amicable terms. 

There is a child arrangements order in place specifying Christmas arrangements, but it is not being followed – what can I do? 

Where a child arrangement order is already in place, which stipulates the contact arrangements over the Christmas period, but the arrangements are not being adhered to.

You may consider making an application to the court to enforce the order. 

The other parent would need to demonstrate that they had a reasonable excuse for breaching the order in relation to the stipulated Christmas plans. 

I want to take my children abroad for Christmas – can I do this? 

If you are planning to take your child on holiday for Christmas, you will need to obtain permission from every person who has parental responsibility for the child or make an application to the court. 

If there is a Child Arrangements Order in place which names you as the person with whom the child shall live, you may take the child out of the UK for Christmas without permission for a period of up to 28 days unless a court order prevents you from doing so. 

However, to prevent conflict, it is recommended that parents communicate, and the other parent should be given sufficient notice before any Christmas holiday arrangements are made. 

If there is no Child Arrangements Order in place, then you will need to obtain consent from every person who holds parental responsibility before you take a child abroad. 

Can a Child Arrangements Order be put in place before this Christmas period? 

There is no guarantee that a Child Arrangements Order could be made in time for the 2023 festive period. 

Therefore, It is advised that the discussions over Christmas arrangements occur as soon as possible in the hope that parents can agree arrangements before the upcoming festive period. 

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The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.